Naked Freedom?

by Xavi Burgos Peña | May 9, 2014 1:35 am

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BarrioIcon-Newsletter1x1I love to see a naked body any day. A naked Puerto Rican body? Even better! But I’d also like to consent to seeing such things. Apparently, friends and people in the virtual world don’t feel the same, especially since its in the name of art.

Yesterday, three folks were arrested for baring all in the middle of San Juan’s busiest square while being sketched by art students. The performance piece was the graduate project of one of the accused, who upon her release grudgingly stated to Noticel that “the law continues to define the body as something dishonest and impure”.

That is true. The law (in both the colony and Empire) is indeed made up of shaming and dehumanizing mandates towards our bodies and the identities and practices associated with them.

But lets not lose sight here of that fact that they just strolled up onto the plaza and got naked for all and I mean all to see. That means the viejos playing chess, the abuelas going to church, youth going to school, tourists looking for an authentic experience (and ‘chacho they may have found it!). How was their consent received, how were they engaged in the concepts apparently inherent in this act? They probably weren’t, which also speaks to the elitism of performance art, but I digress.

They most likely did it to receive the press they are now gushing over and with the knowledge that they’d be arrested for violating the indecent exposure laws of the Código Penal. In other words, they proved their point.

I bet you’re thinking: Wait, what, Xavi is conservative?! That asshole… Well, I’m all for civil disobedience and provocative acts of protest, but is “freedom of expression” something that we should apply for every act conceived? No. Should we run around supporting every act in the name of art and radical forms of expression? Naw, Im good. Sometimes we got to check ourselves and others.

Interestingly enough the mayor of San Juan said that she personally doesn’t have anything against this form of art and would’ve approved it if they had requested permission. According to her statement to El Nuevo Día the city could’ve provided some type of notice regarding the performance to offer people with a consensual choice whether to view it or not. And I think pedestrians would more often than not decided to see it.

Whether she’s telling the truth its hard to say, since this happened after the fact. But it’s a pretty progressive statement for a mayor of a major city and seemed like a good compromise. Like, who really likes to get arrested? It seems the performers didn’t, as one can see in the video below. Bendito. 

So let’s be mindful of who’s the audience we’re trying to provoke and engage with; and the manner and context of the engagement. And be willing to compromise and not be so quick to support everything because its “art” and “freedom” after that pesky government gets involved. Bandwagon politics really aren’t that cute of a look.

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